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§ 246. Machinations of the Pharisees.

The sensation created by the raising of Lazarus had, as we have seen, quickened the resolution to which the more hasty portion of the Sanhedrim had long been inclined, to put Jesus out of the way. The time and mode of its execution depended upon the fact and the manner of his entering the city; and men of all classes waited anxiously to see whether he would dare openly to face his enemies. Before his arrival, the Sanhedrim ordered that any one who should ascertain his place of abode should inform them of it, that measures might be taken for his arrest.660660   John, xi., 56, 57.

The triumphant Messianic entry of Christ, amid the shouts of the enthusiastic multitude, was an unexpected blow to the hierarchical party. “See,” said they in anger, “how ye prevail nothing! behold, the world is gone after him!”661661   Ibid., xii., 19. They now determined to make use of craft. We cannot decide, from the brief intimations of the Evangelists, whether they first intended to make use of the Sicarii,662662   Matt., xxvi., 4. It cannot be well decided whether ἀποκτείνειν refers to assassination or to legal murder. who at that time were employed frequently by the unprincipled heads of parties; or whether it was their plan from the beginning to get him into their power by stratagem, and then have him condemned under the forms of law. This last would be more in consonance with their usual hypocrisy. 360 Doubtless the pleas and accusations to be employed were all ready, abundant material had been gathered from Christ’s labours both in Galilee and Jerusalem. Still, they must have welcomed ally new developements which might serve to justify his condemnation on the ground of Jewish law, or to present him to the Roman authorities us a culprit.663663   In order to obtain an exact view of the events that preceded and contributed to the death of Christ, we must compare the synoptical accounts with that of John. The former, however, collecting into the space of a few days events which, according to John, occurred at various points of time, leave many gaps and obscurities. Pharisaical plots and schemes that were, perhaps, going on for years, are all transferred to this period. According to the synoptical accounts, the Sanhedrim sent a deputation to Christ while he taught publicly in the Temple, asking his authority for so doing. Christ, seeing that they only meant to ensnare him, replied by a question that was rather dangerous for them: “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” (Matt., xxi., 25). Their interests would be prejudiced by admitting it to be “from heaven;” their fear of alienating the people, who revered John as a prophet, forbade them to say it was “of men.” They therefore evaded the question, and Christ declared himself to be thereby justified in refusing to answer theirs. In this statement itself there is nothing improbable; the only possible doubt is as to its chronological connexion. Could the Sanhedrim have sent such a deputation to Christ at a time when matters had gone so far as John’s account represents them? The question proposed cannot but remind us of that offered to Christ (John, ii., 18) at the beginning of his ministry; the answer reminds us, also, of Christ’s appeal, at an earlier period, to the testimony of John the Baptist. Without venturing to decide the point, we may suggest that the chronology is at fault. And, at any rate, the obscurity in the connexion of events in the synoptical Gospels, arising from the omission of Christ’s previous labours in Jerusalem, makes it necessary for us to fill them up from John’s definite historical outline. Matt, xxi., 46, recalls forcibly John’s statements of similar facts before occurring in the city.

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